Aquaponic Gardening

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I just noticed that with all the topics we have going, none are about the most mystifying topic of all - cycling your system.  How did you start up your system?  Using fish or "fish-less"?  Pee-ponics? Pure ammonia?  A bacteria product?  If so, which one?  Did you supplement with anything?  Liquid seaweed?

It's been a while since I last cycled a system.  Once you have done it a few times you get to where any new system is started with media and tank water from a fully cycled system so it becomes much easier and less dramatic.  The first system I cycled was a nail-biter.  I just used fish...period...and watched anxiously as the ammonia, then nitrites spiked.  The next two systems were cycled at the same time and I used a ridiculously expensive product that had to be refrigerated in one tank, and a combination of peeponics and Maxicrop in the other tank.  Much, much faster results (unfortunately I didn't keep great records so I can't remember more detail than that) with less angst.  I seem to remember that the two tanks cycled at about the same rate, so I'm never buying an expensive product again!  The Maxicrop enabled me to get plants in there immediately, and I followed up with fish in about a week once I could see through the water again.  What I would probably recommend at this point is cycling with a little pure ammonia and Maxicrop, and add fish once you see the nitrites going down and a glimmer of nitrates...if you have that much control over when your fish arrive.  

Anyone else?

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The chloramx is actually an FDA approved product, works great :)

Sylvia Bernstein said:
thanks for sharing your process, Ryan. To echo TC, please check the label on your cloram-x. It might not be the best thing for your plants in the long run. I think Bacta-pur is supposed to be pretty failsafe. I wanted to share this link that Growitright put up on Facebook today - It is a pretty interesting article on nitrifying least if you are an aquaponics geek :D

I think I have a method not covered here. 


I cycled a pile of gravel by just adding some fish emulsion every week and leaving it out in the rain :) 


Its now all in my grow bed, but I dont have the FT's set up but thought I should try cycling anyway.


I call it system-less cycling. :)


It took 3 weeks and 3 doses before I first saw nitrites. I think by now its probably cycled, but I'll run it and test it for a few days before risking the fishies.



BullwinkleII said:

I think I have a method not covered here. 


I cycled a pile of gravel by just adding some fish emulsion every week and leaving it out in the rain 

"Life, uh, finds a way..."

I am from an aquarium background. I always have 2 different filters on any of my aquariums for a little redundancy.

I've always recommended a product called stress-zyme for new aquariums. Walmart carries it. I usually have a bottle of it laying around for some aquarium intervention as it seems like everyone buys fish with their new tank. I just wanna smack some fish store chain employees.


Like a lot of people, I leverage a previously cycled tank. I just grab a over-the-back filter off of one of my tanks and plug it into the new tank, and stick the new filter on the old tank. With my new aquaponics, I keep my media in pots so it's easy to move around. I will be moving some pots to the new system I plan on brining up soon.


There ought to be a media exchange for new people to bring 5 gallons of new media and get 5 gallons of cycled media.

If you find some near by Aquapons that are already established it is fairly easy to trade some media but many people can't find others close enough.


I often keep a few paint strainer bags of media in a sump tank so it is easy to help some one out.

Thank you for the link.  The information copied below is a bit worrisome with respect to outdoor systems.

Nitrifying bacteria will die at 32° F (0° C).

Sylvia Bernstein said: It is a pretty interesting article on nitrifying least if you are an aquaponics geek
Perhaps a little worrying if you make a habit of letting your system temp drop to 32 F and then crank it back up to 70 F and start feeding a day later.  However, most systems that drop to 32 F are going to only slowly come back up in temperature which gives the bacteria time to re-populate before there is much feeding going on again.

Ryan said:
As the system finishes cycling, nitrites drop and nitrates rise, I bring the temperature into the acceptable range for the fish/plants. Then I wait for the ammonia levels to drop to zero before adding the fish.

How can your nitrites have "dropped"... if your still have ammonia levels above zero... your system isn't cycled until the ammonia AND nitrite levels are both zero... and indeed, the nitrates wont grow exponentially until the ammonia level is zero... as ammonia inhibits the nitrifying bacteria...
Because I am continually adding ammonium chloride to the system until the end of the cycle and im ready to add fish.

Ammonia does not inhibit Nitrobacter enough to even worry about which is why we dose Amonium chloride until we are ready to introduce fish. There are a bunch of papers out there, here is one:

Having helped hundreds of people cycle tanks throughout the years and having cycled many myself, I have no doubt this method works. As for when a tank is cycled, you're right in that the ammonia and nitrites drop to 0 but if you are adding ammonia, your levels will only be at 0 from the time they consume all of the input nutrients until the time you re-dose. You have to feed a filter to grow the bacterial colony.

I'll hopefully be cycling my first system soon so this thread is really helpful.


One method of fishless cycling I've read about and plan to try uses fish feed as the ammonia source - just drop it into the empty tank and it produces the ammonia as it decays. Anyone used this method?

This discussion has some good info that i will take with me when i cycle my system this upcoming week.  If i can i would like to write everything down (daily inputs, daily ANN, PH, EC, Temp levels, & how many days it takes to cycle).  I am planning on using Proline ammonium chloride, maxicrop, earth nectar Ambrosia+Nectar (thank you sylvia), and i will also put a pot filled with earthworm castings and Alaskan humus below the water inlet for the growbeds.  I think that is plenty of goodies.  I love giving goodies to the organisms i grow; i might enjoy it more than giving myself good stuff (well actually their the same thing when growing food lol.)  If you treat your organisms right theyll treat you right, so i guess we both gain.  win-win scenario  :)

Slyvia, how much Earth ambrosia+nectar do you think i add to a 320 gal system (1/4 cup?)

Careful AJ about adding too many different things as you start up since it might be hard to tell what is going on.

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